5 Month Old Puppy Suddenly Becomes Aggressive Towards Owner

by Kimberlee
(Van Nuys, CA, USA)

I've had my pitbull terrier mix since she was about 2 months old and she is a great dog. Loyal loving playful but about 2 weeks ago she's started getting really aggressive towards me.

She has bitten me twice now when i've tried taking things away from her that she shouldn't have in her mouth and she was never like that before. I used to be able to get something out of her mouth with no problems, a little growling and pulling back but never showing teeth until now.

She sleeps with me on my bed but i've noticed that when i make small movements and she's sleeping she starts to growl. She barks at me and wont let me touch her unless she comes towards me. But once i stop touching her and go to rub her back or something she once again starts growling.

I tried taking her chewing toy away because i thought she may have thought i was trying to take it from her so maybe she wouldnt growl anymore but it continued so i took her out to pee outside and when we came back she seemed to continue growling and snapping at me.

I'm not sure whats going on, i would like some help or advice on what i could do to stop this because she was never like this. I'm afraid that one night while i'm sleeping she'll attack me or my brother because
she sleeps with him too if we make sudden movements.

Should i take her to the vet to see if something is wrong with her or is she just becoming an aggressive dog??

Gale's Reply:

Definitely take her to the vet to determine whether there could be a medical cause for her behavior. If she's ill, touch may be painful or her perceptions of what is going on around her may be skewed.

This dog should not be sleeping with you or your brother until her behavior is resolved at least. And, it may be that she's the type of dog that will need clear boundaries her entire life to be at her best. By which, I mean that she's not allowed on furniture or the bed UNLESS she's invited.

The booklet How to Be the Leader of the Pack - And Have Your Dog Love You for It! by Patricia McConnell is a quick read and an excellent guide to making the changes in your relationship with your dog that will provide her with clear boundaries and the sense that you are in charge.

If everything checks out OK with the vet. The next step would be to have her evaluated by a professional trainer/behaviorist who can give you an assessment of the behavioral causes of her aggression and the options you have to address it.

Good luck. Feel free to post back here and let us know how things turn out.

Comments for 5 Month Old Puppy Suddenly Becomes Aggressive Towards Owner

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Dec 27, 2011
Resource guarding.
by: Star

You might want to also read the book "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson to help you with the resource guarding issues you are having. It is very natural behavior for a dog to be possessive of an item it considers valuable, but it doesn't mean you have to live with it. Avoid conflict situations with high value items until you can get some professional help. In the meantime if you need to take something away from your pup offer a trade with a small piece of hot dog or something else she likes. This will begin to help her associate that giving things up to you means good things happen, not just that she loses her toy.

Dec 27, 2011
Good point!
by: Gale

@Star - Donaldson's book is great. Thanks for adding that recommendation.

Dec 27, 2011
by: Anonymous

It's only natural for puppies of ANY breed to try to challenge your authority at some point. My own 11 week old puppy has begun to snarl and growl when he is picked up. But by giving him a very firm NO he backs off and will soon learn that I am the dominant one of the pack. I agree that seeing a behaviorist may be a good option since it seems like this behavior has escalated. Good luck!

Dec 27, 2011
You've elevated her to be The ALPHA of the house!
by: Traci in Texas

You have committed a serious faux pas. You have saddled her with running your household and being in charge of everything that happens...

1.) Do not allow her in your bed. Perhaps, to avoid the battle, don't allow her in the bedroom even - for now. Alpha gets the primo bed; lesser people get the doggie beds on the floors. This goes for any furniture.

2.) Get the vet to check her out to make sure there isn't something actually WRONG with her - but it just sounds like you've promoted her to a position in which she & you are both unhappy. She doesn't want to run the house any more than you want her paying the mortgage!

3.) Enroll in Obedience Class - YOU need trained. This will be the best $100 you'll spend on her, in her life. It will teach you how to communicate with her, successfully. What to look for, how to say it, how to keep her in her place without being mean or confusing her.. GREAT information that will serve you and her over both of your lifetimes!

You need to get a grip on this immediately - do not dawdle.

Best of luck on getting your happy companion back - I am sure that she has missed YOU being the leader of your pack!! :)

Dec 27, 2011
by: Anonymous

Definetly go to youR vet first. Your puppy can't talk to you, they need to try to express their feelings of pain/sickness some way to get your attention. I also agree that you are no longer the boss. Buy yourself a crate and start from there. Never hit or scream at your puppy, they won't understand and you will make them fear you. My dogs listen to me cause they respect me and know that they are safe at my hands and in my house. They also know I am the boss. This take repeated practice and so much patience. A regular training item I do in my house is I get my dogs to relenquish whatever they have to me willingly (sometimes it took 5 min to get them to do it) as soon as they gave it to me they got praise and the item was handed back. Even though I have no problem with them now, I still continue the practice daily. Just as a reinforcement. It does build trust between you and your dog. My dogs do sleep in my bed but only when I allow them to do so(they were trained in the crate first). Good luck to you and please don't give up, once you get a pitbull trained, they will be the very best companion you will ever have!
Karen Ramsey

Dec 28, 2011
Command leader position!
by: Gina

I'd do the vet ck & then get right into reading & upping ur status w/ this one!!
I too feel you've let ur pitty think he's the alpha & some are happy to assume it if you don't demand the spot! I have raised 4 pitties & LOTS of other dogs & yes u need to b alpha b4 that dog gets any more aggressive & hurts someone! This is a big danger to let any dog b in command & esp. a pittie who is pushing this hard for it at 5 mths.
Make him wait to eat until u! say he can! If he gets to guarding take it away! Put ur hands in his food bowl EVERY feeding so he knows it's yours & U! are allowing him to eat! Never let him in or out of any room first when u are together & u r leading him!, U! claim the territory 1st & allow him to enter after you! say he can! Make him release toys at ur voice command! This is a HAVE to as he needs to always let go of anything u tell him to! I'd do the crate deal too or at least get him off ur bed as that is letting in on ur level & in control of the territory as he is trying to claim it! If he gets aggressive speak firm, NO! & push his butt off! Get him out of the room even if he keeps it up!
Read & start working on this ASAP! Good luck!

Jan 13, 2012
No Need To Be Alpha
by: Meira Frankl

There are some great recommendations given here, but I truly hope that you don't take the advice to become 'The Pack Leader', or "The Alpha", or to try any dominating techniques with your puppy.

As suggested, I'd first bring her to a vet behaviorist, not just a regular vet. Rule out anythnig medical.

Then I would contact a force free, positive based trainer in your area to help you.

I cannot give you more advice than that, as I have not met you, your family, or your puppy.

Good luck,
Meira Frankl CPDT

Aug 22, 2013
nip this in bud immediately
by: Anonymous

Dogs are a pack animal and a PitBull is a strong and can be a dangerous dog! Dogs need to know who the boss is immediately alot of people let there dog rum there house jump on people etc show zero fear to this dog and let her have it with a rolled up newspaper!

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